Under pressure

Gulf Business|Gulf Business May 2020

Under pressure
With underwater tourism set to become the next big frontier in “experiential tourism”, recreational sub manufacturers like Florida-based Triton Submarines are gearing up with state-of-the-art vessels
VARUN GODINHO

The Five Deeps Expedition, which concluded in August last year, had an impressive mandate. It successfully undertook manned expeditions to the bottoms of the world’s five oceans including the Puerto Rico Trench (Atlantic Ocean), Java Trench (Indian Ocean), Molloy Deep (Arctic Ocean), South Sandwich Trench (Southern Ocean) and the Challenger Deep (Pacific Ocean).

Those death-defying descents were undertaken by intrepid adventurer and American businessman Victor Vescovo who used his $37m two-seater personal submersible, a Triton 36,000/2 sub christened Limiting Factor, which is the world’s first certified full ocean depth submersible constructed using a titanium hull and rated to dive to depths of up to 11,000 metres.

What sort of an engineering daredevilry does it take to build such a sub? “The pressure on the personnel capsule – 16,000 pounds per square inch, at the bottom of Challenger Deep – is equivalent to a stack of 292 fully-loaded 747s,” L. Bruce Jones, the CEO and co-founder of the Floridaheadquartered Triton Submarines, told Gulf Business.

Jones along with Patrick Lahey cofounded the privately-held company 12 years ago at a time when, as Jones says, they “realised there was a distinct market for smaller, deep-diving luxury submersibles.”

The company has around 50 employees spread across two locations – one in Florida and the other in Barcelona.

On average, the team hand-builds less than 10 submersibles a year. Expectedly, they don’t come cheap.

The popular Triton 3300/3 which dives to 1,000 metres and carries three people, costs approximately $4m. Its least-expensive personal sub meanwhile dives to 305 metres and costs $2.7m, while its most expensive sub in existence takes two people to 11,000 metres (Challenger Deep-levels) and is priced north of $30m.

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Gulf Business May 2020